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California election: 84% say 2024 primary important but lack enthusiasm, according to poll

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February 23, 2024

A whopping 84% of likely voters in Californian say that voting in 2024 is “very important,” but most aren’t particularly excited to cast their ballot.

That’s according to a new statewide survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, raising questions over how a general lack of enthusiasm could impact voter turnout in primaries March 5. The state will join more than a dozen others on Super Tuesday to head to the polls for presidential and congressional races, and a high-profile Senate race and question about Proposition 1.

Just under 40% of the state’s likely voters are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president, the results say, and just 28% are excited to vote in Congressional races. It’s not unlike figures seen on the national level, particularly dogging President Joe Biden‘s campaign for reelection. A January USA Today/Suffolk University poll found enthusiasm to be markedly split between the two expected presidential candidates. In the poll, 44% of Trump supporters describe themselves as a “10” out of 10 in enthusiasm, while just 18% of Biden supporters call themselves a “10”.

As ever, polls are not crystal balls and can be imperfect barometers. Voter turnout is a critical variable that polls simply cannot predict perfectly; as the saying goes, “people vote, not polls.” However, enthusiasm is often pointed to as a way of measuring possible turnout.

The cost-of-living in California is consistently top-of-mind, likely voter or not. Concerns over the ability to keep up with inflation and make ends meet is held across the state and across the country, destined to be a critical issue driving voters not only in local and statewide races, but in the presidential race this November.

More: A fraying coalition: Black, Hispanic, young voters abandon Biden as election year begins

Economy, homelessness and immigration among top issues for voters

Overall, Californians say jobs, the economy, homelessness and immigration among top issues for voters, and inflation and homelessness are the top problems. Housing costs and availability are seen as the most critical issue by 14% while crime, gangs, and drugs and immigration rank at the top among 11% and 10%, respectively.

Among likely voters, 26% of Democrats name homelessness as the top issue and 24% of Republicans name immigration as the top issue in 2024.

California Senate race competitive, while Prop. 1 support wanes

In this most recent batch of polling, 24% of likely voters expressed support for Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, with Democratic Rep. Katie Porter and Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey locked in a dead heat for second, at 19% and 18%, respectively. The three continue to lead the pack, with Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee consistently placing last in polls. The survey was conducted February 6-13, before the last two Senate debates.

Polling by Emerson College this week gave Garvey a 6-point advantage over Porter, signaling the race for second place behind Schiff remains closely competitive. Since the start of the year, polls from UC Berkeley and USC aligned closer with this week’s figures from PPIC, suggesting a neck and neck fight between the two candidates. The candidates hope to fill the late-Dianne Feinstein’s seat, which she held for 30 years until her death in October, and is currently held by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointee Laphonza Butler.

While support for U.S. Senate candidates haven’t budged much in the last few months, Californians appear to be cooling on Proposition 1, which would provide billions in bonds to build mental health treatment facilities and provide housing for the homeless. The proposition is supported by 59% of likely voters, according to the survey, down from 68% in November.

The proposition, which includes changes to the existing Mental Health Services Act, proposes a $6.38 billion bond to create behavioral health treatment facilities, housing for veterans and housing for people with mental health challenges at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

More: California’s Prop 1 could revamp state’s mental health system. Here’s what to know.

Kathryn Palmer is the California 2024 Elections Fellow for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X @KathrynPlmr.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: California election: Poll finds voters largely unenthusiastic

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